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Giant African Land Snail

Achatina fulica

  1. Not Evaluated
  2. Data Deficient
  3. Least Concern
  4. Near Threatened
  5. Vulnerable
  6. Endangered
  7. Critically Endangered
  8. Extinct in the Wild
  9. Extinct

About Us

There are some very sluggish residents at Woburn Safari Park; these aren’t your average sized snail that you’ll find in your garden. Despite their slow, slimy appearance, they are fragile and extraordinary to get close to. Come and see our giant African Land Snails in the ‘education classroom’ (only open at set times throughout the day).

Distribution
Native to Eastern Africa
Habitat
Found in agricultural areas, coast land, natural forest, planted forests, shrub lands, urban areas, and wetlands.
Height
7-10 cm (3-4 in.) (Shell length)
Weight
Around 250 grams
Lifespan
Average 5-6 years but can live up 10 years
Threats
The species is still common in many parts of its range.

Behaviour

Giant African Land Snails are nocturnal, moving around at night to feed on a wide range of plant. With the exception of mating, snails spend much of their time alone. They communicate through giving off scents and through the vibrations they pick up.

Like other known animals they hibernate in the colder times of the year. This helps them to survive the cooler temperatures. It also helps them to survive when it is difficult for them to find enough food. Snails thrive in an environment that is warm and moist and will actually hibernate when it is extremely hot as well. They can give off a protective coating by secreting a calcium compound that dries on contact with the air, sealing the shell and their bodies from the conditions outside and retaining water.

Diet

Giant African Land Snails eat a wide range of plant material, fruit and vegetables. In captivity they are fed a mixture of grasses, weeds and leafy greens (dandelions, clover, endive etc.). To keep their shells strong and healthy cuttlefish bone or calcium block is provided and left in the enclosures, allowing the snails to regulate the amount of calcium in the diet. 

Physical features

The conical shell is a brown colour with weak darker markings that appear as bands across the spiral, although the colouration can vary. The mantle, the fleshy part inside the shell through which the foot protrudes, is a pale yellowish colour. The columella, the smooth inner surface to the opening of the shell is also yellow. The ‘head’ portion of the foot is light brown but the rest of the foot is paler with markings.

They move along on a single foot, driven by waves of muscle contraction in the sole. A gland at the front of the foot produces slime for the foot to slide over. Snails have teeth that cut up food as they eat, but a land snail has a rough tongue which has little hooks on it. These hooks scrape off tiny bits of leaves, fruit and other foods which the snail can then eat. These teeth are called radula.

Breeding behaviour

Snails are hermaphrodite, which means they have both male and female parts capable of producing both sperm and eggs; however they still require another snail to mate with to reproduce. Courtship can last up to half an hour, pair of snails raise the sole of their feet off the ground and bring them together. At the same time they rock their bodies to and fro and actively caress one another with their greatly extended tentacles. The snail lays a number of eggs per clutch averages around 200 in the soil. A snail may lay 5-6 clutches per year with a hatching viability of about 90%. Adult size can be reached in just four months.

Threats and conservation

Giant African Land Snails are not listed as endangered. Overall, the global population size has not been quantified, but the species is still common in many parts of its range. Giant African Land Snails are an invasive species which have been introduced by humans all over the world. These species reproduce rapidly, can carry a number of parasites harmful to humans and animals and out-compete native species.

However, they are useful in some parts of the world as they are harvested for food.

Fun facts

Snails are Molluscs (shelled animals) and belong to the class ‘Gastropoda’, which includes slugs, snails and limpets.

When a snail grows it grows a new spiral every year, this is called a whorl.